reviewed by Michael Thomas
Though AA Wallace’s second solo album was also recorded in his bedroom (bedroom studio, to be more precise), In Alpha Zones is no bedroom pop record. It’s a big leap forward for the Nova Scotian synth master thanks to a full backing band and plenty of talented collaborators.
Where the previous record leaned into disco at times, this new collection is one of stellar synth-pop with enough hooks to get you grooving nearly from start to finish. You can attribute that to the tight percussion from Arthur Doyle and Josh Pothier, Jim Arsenault’s groovy bass and Greg Ryan’s guitar, to name just a few of the people who make this record great.
In Alpha Zones even pays tribute to (disambiguation) with the 13-second “Previously” that seems to blur through the first record in a flash. But from then on, we’re taken to a new world. “Perdeverence” gets things off to a bright start thanks to some tasty guitar and matching synths. “Don’t forget that you can’t come back,” the chorus says, but then, you definitely won’t want to leave Wallace’s world any time soon.
The guitars make for a few really catchy songs—”Harlequin,” for example, is one hell of an early candidate for song of the summer thanks to the slinky bass, tropical synths and bright guitar. “Shake It Out” is a bona fide jam with a dance-punk feel and some killer, sultry lyrics.
In other places, Wallace is content to take things down a bit. “Success” seems to be a fairly grim take on fame: “S-U-C-C-E-S-S, that’s the way that we spell death,” he nonchalantly sings. “Nothing” is a dark, heavy, synth-y wade through nihilism as Wallace explains “We’re not in this together.”
And there’s still plenty of other jams to jump into. “VLT Girls (We Win Again)” is a densely packed anthem that seems to be sung with just a hint of a sneer. “Secret Name” is a beautiful combination of Drew Jurecka’s strings and Wallace’s synths, making it feel like the listener is being pulled into a fantasy world.
Wallace’s music becomes more multi-faceted with each release, but let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves in speculating what might come next; this is the kind of synth-pop more people should be getting behind.
Top Tracks: “Success”; “Shake It Out”; “Harlequin”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)